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I have no clever introduction. Let's just get to it...
I don't even want to watch the men sing this week, that's how suck-tastic they were last week. Oh, but wait, the camera just scanned the line of male contestants on the stairs that lead up to Coca-Cola Lounge/Suicide Ledge and Michael Jackson is here wearing his "Smooth Criminal" hat. He'll sing well. He's bat-shit crazy, but he can still sing. I've chosen to think of him that way from now on, as the great singer. The rest of it stopped being anything I could stand to think about a long time ago. Sorry, I was wrong: it's Sanjaya trying to butch it up. By dressing like Michael Jackson. Oh, Sanjaya...
Seacrest takes a moment to congratulate Jennifer Hudson, a woman who Simon Cowell once said didn't have what it takes, or something to that effect. But now? Now she's "our very own Jennifer Hudson, our first Oscar-winner." So much "our" happening all of a sudden.
The camera cuts to a deeply-ambivalent-but-still-fake-grinning-like-a-chimp Jeff Foxworthy, whose Fox show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? is blowing up all over the place. The camera doesn't identify the mustachioed periwinkle-collar comic, but he's so happy to behere, and right down front too. He must have shown up really early to get such a good seat.
Seacrest introduces the guys and then the judges. He solicits commentary from them. They have none to offer besides "Come on!" (Randy) and "Have fun!" (Paula). Silence from Simon. Then Seacrest explains that tonight is "dedication night" and that each singer has chosen a song specifically to dedicate to the person or people they feel deserve it most.
Phil "Nosferatu" Stacey is up first, dedicating his song to Navy Band Southeast. Stacey joined the military after September 11, 2001, and his job is to sing to the troops. They show a clip of him doing this very thing, playing with the band in their white uniforms, looking like a much less cool version of the Hives. And now, years later, he knows that singing is going to be his way out of all that mess (he doesn't say this, of course, I'm just guessing). And for his buddies back in the slog? He sings that John Waite song where the chorus is "I ain't missing you at all." Good one, Nosferatu. He's wearing a long-sleeved white T-shirt with a shoelace accent on the left shoulder. His shirt is also a sneaker. I am very confused by this. And he's still a crap singer. There's not a single interesting thing about him besides the gleam of his scalp. This doesn't stop Paula from saying, "I can hear you right now on the radio." That she's talking about the invisible magic radio that lives inside her mind, the one operated by tiny little people inside it who sing all the songs, is skillfully edited out by quick-thinking Fox technicians. Simon, because he's got some sense every so often, agrees with me, and cynically adds that Nos is "not going anywhere" because he's likable (and had the marketing savvy to invoke 9/11 in his personality reel).
Back in Coca-Cola lounge, Seacrest is "casually chatting" with the guys and he asks Sundancehead what sort of feedback he'd been getting since last week. Gee, I wonder where this is going? Could it be an opportunity for the self-effacing Sundancehead to be self-effacing? "They said for me not to be so crappy," offers the self-effacing Sundancehead. And then he smiles like, "But don't I remind you of one of those adorable Keebler Elves? They make delicious cookies, you know!" And the worst part of this is that he does. I want to pinch his cheek and give him a hug and tickle his stupid little goatee and make him give me a Pecan Sandie.
Jared Cotter sings next. Dang, he's handsome. And such a Carlton. I keep waiting for him to do the Carlton dance, though, yet he hasn't delivered. But that could be because the cameras, so far this season, haven't really given him the time of day. He dedicates his song to his mom and dad because they're good looking too. He sings "Let's Get It On." For his parents. His sexy, sexy parents. The camera shows Carlton...er, Cotter, in profile and you can see the other guys standing on Suicide Ledge. Sundancehead is already grinning and humping the bar, so turned on is he by the thought of doing Cotter's mom and dad. In fact, the entire audience has now turned a lusty gaze to the people who created the man onstage. Too bad the man onstage is struggling with actually singing the musical sex-call. But he fakes it well, dropping to his knees and doing a goofy sort of "I'm so turned on right now I have to grab my own face" move. That's the only way to describe it, really. He grabs his own face. Maybe to draw attention away from the fact that he's wearing a dark suit with blindingly white sneakers. Randy wants to borrow the face-grab move. "Did you like that, Paula?" he asks. And Paula delivers the zing of the night: "Maybe when Jared does it." Then, sadly, because she's just been intentionally funny, Paula decides she's Fozzie Bear and everything falls apart as she collapses in laughter over her own shtick. Simon saves it by calling Jared a cabaret singer on The LoveBoat. Jared pops back, "That woulda been a great Love Boat, man." Seacrest decides to get in on the act and adds, "The things we've all done to that song, memories, huh?"
OK, Seacrest, I have to say:
2. Lies. I saw the grandma kiss you gave Teri Hatcher in that tabloid pic some paparazzo snapped a couple years back and it suggested nothing so much as you being Ken-Doll-smooth down there.
A.J. Tabaldo, the Fifth Dreamgirl, dedicates his song to Mom and Dad too. Not his own, though. Cotter's. He sings "Feeling Good," best known as a Nina Simone song, and as much as I'd like to bust his balls--just because it's my job, in addition to a deep pleasure, to do just that--he's not bad at all. He seems relaxed and hips-wavy. Even Simon says, "That was actually nearly very good." Then Simon offers what is, perhaps, the weirdest code ever for "I think you're a little homo" by saying, "You look strangely comfortable doing that."
Randy: "Why is that strange?"
Simon: "Don't go there. Don't go there."
Well...that was...weird. But what Simon is saying is this: Young men who aspire to sing songs by jazz divas are sexually suspect. In fact, young men who aspire to be pop singers at all are sexually suspect. "Real" men, like Chris Daughtry, want to sing rock and roll. Maybe the blues. But crooners in 2007? Fags.
And speaking of "strangely comfortable," here's Sanjaya. He's got that M.J. hat on. Or maybe he's referencing the one Judy Garland wore in...oh, dang, I don't know the name of the movie, the one where she sings "Get Happy." My partner/husband/whatever just intervened with the title: Summer Stock. Thanks, partner/husband/whatever. I can always count on him for the right bit of Encyclopedia Gay-tannica information. Sanjaya sings "Steppin' Out" for his late grandfather. And much like the body of a dead person, the kid drains every last ounce of blood from it. He's starting to resemble, singing-wise at least, all the frail little white girls on this show, barely able to utter a peep. What happened to the kid I saw in his first audition, the one who sang the Stevie Wonder song? That kid isn't here, replaced by one that's been deflated and blow-dried. You have to wonder if A.J. isn't dosing him with Ritalin. Next week, if Sanjaya makes the cut, we'll probably learn that he's been pushed down a flight of stairs backstage. Randy's not down for the be-hatted one's whispery bullshit at all. Paula is noncommittal and gets called on it by Simon. Then Simon lays into Sanjaya and asks him why he sang what he sang the way he sang it. Sanjaya's breathy response: "Um...I wanted to...celebrate the...great...years of music, the classics. And I'm dedicating it to my grandpa." Oh, good. That's coherent. Seacrest says, "I'm sure your grandpa's proud of you." Uh, Seacrest, the kid just said the man is DEAD. Pay attention and do your job.
Time for Chris Sligh of Chubby Little Hands fame. Last week I reported all the backstory I knew about him and expressed a little bit of suspicion that, you know, at any minute he was going to turn all "God Hates Fags" on us. It's not like there hasn't been precedent, Mandisa. But further digging (and my friend Michael e-mailing me a link to Sligh's blog) has revealed that Sligh left the bug-fuck-crazy Bob Jones University before graduation and transferred somewhere else. Furthermore, he calls himself a former fundamentalist, though no less committed to his faith. And if you're annoyed that I'm so hung up on this, then you haven't had to deal with a lot of modern American Christians lately. The good ones--a.k.a. my friends and family who are Christians and famous ones like Jennifer Hudson and Kristin Chenoweth--don't get up in your face about being queer. They either support you or they just live and let live. The rest of them, however, would like to see us all shipped off to a space colony somewhere. Unless they live in Jamaica. Then they want us killed and our corpses ground into dust. So there's that. Sligh is just alright with me for now. He's dedicating his song, "Trouble," to his foxy blond wife, Sarah. And no wonder he's so cocky and smart-alecky. He gets to bang that. At one point he sings right to her and she's all cry-y. He's not bad at all, either.
Nick Pedro dedicates his song to his girlfriend. He sings "Fever." But I have nothing to say about him at all because even though I keep rewinding TiVo to the beginning of his performance, I can't stay awake through the entire song. When he's done and the judges are finished telling him to juice it up a bit, Nick debuts a catchphrase: "Vote for Pedro." So now I hate him.
Blake Beatbox Lewis dedicates his song to his parents. They support him in all things. Apparently everyone on this show has parents who treat them like they shit ice cream cones. Whatever happened to the days of parents telling you that you had to be a doctor and to give up this crazy dream of being a star? Isn't that sort of adversity supposed to spur you on to greatness? I wonder if his parents would approve of the weird sideways mushroom cap he's wearing tonight too. Probably. Whatever you want to do, baby, we believe in you. They probably say that to him every time he picks his nose. Do they support his choice of crap Jamiroquai song? That's a band, that Jamiroquai, the kind you listen to when you're too lazy to go hunt down Innervisions or anything by Earth, Wind, and Fire. And now he's beatboxing and scatting at the same time and pulling moves like the ones Big Giant Hat Guy does in the video for this song ("Virtual Insanity," for the record). Weirdly enough, as much as I think this sucks, he's the most modern of the guys. And that sort of counts for something. But damn, that hat just puked all over his head. Simon calls him on nicking dance moves from the "Virtual Insanity" video. Simon is right to do this.
Brandon Rogers dedicates his song to his late grandmother. He sings "Time After Time." He starts out shaky and finally gets his footing on the chorus, going for a John Legend-ish thing, then gets all breathy and weak again. Dude is a professional backup singer and somehow seems to fuck up way more than he should. He didn't go big and the honest truth is you HAVE TO GO BIG ON THIS SHOW. Loudness is how you make dumb people remember things. Simon mocks the fact that Brandon dedicated the song to grandma. Calls it "rubbish." Well, guess what, man? Grandma may be dead but MOM is still alive and sitting in the audience and she's about to come whoop your British ass. Paula may do that too. "It's NOT rubbish," she pouts. Now we're fighting. Thank God. I love it when everyone's upset. Then Brandon says, "By the way, it's my dad's birthday. Happy birthday, Dad." Simon says, "Oh, well, my mum's birthday is in November. Just thought I'd mention it. And I like puppies." Ooh, well-played, Cowell. Way to bitch it up.
Chris Richardson is also dedicating his song to his grandmother. He calls her his "Big Mama." She looks like a woman with a smoker's voice. He's singing something called "Geek in the Pink." I have to go look that shit up. Oh, it's by Jason Mraz, a man I've spent quite some time ignoring. Either way, it sounds kind of like a nasty song to be singing to Mee-Maw, you know? He's kind of too all over the place for me, but Cowell's got that "I can sell this" look on his face.
Sundancehead dedicates his song to his 2-1/2- month-old baby. Cut to a picture of the 10-week-old post-fetus. Dang, that's an ugly baby--so homely, in fact, that it makes Sundancehead cry. OK, lie. Sundancehead cries that the kid's already smiling now and he can't be there to shout-sing the blues at him. The kid's probably already shaving too and Dad can't be there to teach him about pre-treating the coarse neck hair. OK, the song. For the first time since the man auditioned he's actually good. He's great when he shouts and growls and howls and whoops it up. Paula and Randy do backflips to praise him. Simon agrees. So we've reached consensus. He can still rock the Hollow Tree. Oh, they stole my bit and show a mock-up pic of the kid with a little goatee. Fuckers.
What a weird racial divide we have with the ladies. It's like an Alabama diner in 1952 but in reverse. Because so far, any woman who's even somewhat African-American has been handily trouncing all of the weak-voiced, off-pitch, generic white girls. We could save a lot of time and just get rid of all the Caucasians now. My ears would be grateful for that. But this is America, and if you're white, you get lots and lots of chances to fail and fail again. So bring on the anemic honkies and let's get this party started.
Blahblah Seacrest and his big-collared shirt. It's lavender, which I think counts as both Type 1 and Type 4 Gay. And, yes, I'll quickly go over it again.
Type 1 Gay = It's 1925. You're happy.
Type 2 Gay = You're something lame or stupid. For example, you're a repeat of Providence on the PAX network.
Type 3 Gay = Straight man with highlights.
Type 4 Gay = Arguing with friends about the difference between a "precondom classic" and the latest pigfest from Treasure Island. Over brunch.
Judges tonight = Randy's barfy paisley shirt, Paula's freakishly hair-sprayed and parted-down-the-middle coif and Simon's 900th black V-neck sweater.
Let's get to the singing. More dedications...
Gina Glocksen the Red-Dyed Remix of Nikki McKibben is dedicating her song to her doughy, adorable boyfriend. I know I said last week I was over lusting after him because he went and dyed a patch of his own hair red in solidarity with his main squeeze, but I have to say he's still cute. And if somehow he's reading this: Dude, you don't have to worry about a fag stalking you. I'm cool. Anyway, the song. G is the strongest of the terrible white girls. If there's justice, she'll be last paleface out the door. She's singing Heart's "Alone" in a blood-red vampy dress. She's not bad, and she gets nice assistance from a previously anonymous backup singer named Charlotte who's wearing a Tenacious D T-shirt. The judges dig her. Simon frets about her image. He thinks the dress is too girly-girl for her. And he's sort of right. The color is rocker-chick appropriate, but the cut is a little lady-fied. The spaghetti straps make her look like a linebacker. And then when Seacrest comes and stands next to her after you can see that she does in fact have broader shoulders than he does. Not that that's such a monumental achievement, but there it is.
Alaina Alexander dedicates her song to her mother. And oops, I was wrong. I thought we were dealing a black/white bunch of women, but Alaina is Hispanic. And that's my fault for not paying attention. But I lump her in with the dumb white girls here because she's terrible. Bad singing knows no race. She tries to sing "Not Ready to Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks, and it's way too big for her. I wonder if she knows what that song is about? In profile you can see Stephanie Edwards standing on Coca-Cola Cliff smiling. Her thought bubble = "One more out of the way." Randy hates it. Alaina is shocked by this criticism. Paula tries to be nice about it. Simon says it was like Randy running a hundred-meter sprint and that she ran out of steam. Then Paula goes in for the save and compliments her on how cute she is. Because that's how you soothe a woman? Is that really true? Do chicks fall for that shit?
Lakisha Jones dedicates her song to her 90-year-old grandmother. She sings "Midnight Train to Georgia." She's amazing, of course. But what's up with that tenty orange blouse over the denim miniskirt? It cuts her right in half and makes her gigantic boobs look even gigantic-er. Where's Andre Leon Talley to fix up this lady? ALT, we need you to swoop in with your Balenciaga cape and white gloves and get Lakisha into an Oscar De La Renta gold metallic python bolero jacket. Her supporters in the audience are wearing Lakisha Jones T-shirts. I want one of those. Simon agrees with me on the outfit. Seacrest argues with him. Says, "What do you have against salmon?" Straight from the Type 4 handbook, there, Seacrest.
The only person who can follow Lakisha and not suffer by comparison is Melinda Doolittle. She dedicates her song to her "Gayles." As in she's the Oprah and her two pals are her personal assistants/whipping posts. One is her vocal coach and one is her stylist. She's already got both on the payroll? Aren't there rules about pros joining this competition? The stylist--who should be shit-canned, by the way, for not tending to Melinda's clear need for some elongation in the larynx area--even produces a "look book" of outfit help because, in M.D.'s own words, she'd look "a hot mess" without it. But still, I forget all this when she comes out and mows down the rest of these kids with "My Funny Valentine." The judges can't kiss her ass enough, which is appropriate because she's astonishingly good. Simon even goes so far as to praise her for her humility, contrasting her to the "precocious little monsters... [who've had] enormous egos" that have been on the show in the past. Paula gives him a sly sidelong glance when he says this. Oh, shit! NAME NAMES! I wish, at this point, I was more of a networker and had more insider info. I mean, fuck, I live right here in the belly of the beast. I'm a media faggot. Shouldn't I be out at more lame media faggot parties gossiping about this sort of thing? Why am I sitting here in flannel pajamas eating Pepperidge Farm cookies when I could be out getting scoops for you good people? You deserve better than my 35-cent version of Hollywood. Now, having said that, I did just recently read somewhere that a certain gray-haired contestant from last season was not especially beloved backstage. But I forget where I read it, and it was probably an exaggeration. But still it's kind of fun to think of him as a demanding, unfriendly diva-bitch.
1. Drink Diet Coke.
2. Join the Marines. You'll have a heart-tugging soundtrack follow you to your death and/or brutal disfigurement in Iraq. And if it's the latter that befalls you, your benefits will be slashed by superpatriot Republicans sometime down the road. Go to Marines.com for more details.
3. Leprechauns want you to get another Visa card.
4. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is coming soon! OK, sorry, it's coming not soon. June 15.
Meadow Soprano loves her A.J. This song is for you, bro. "Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion, the lukewarm water torture version. Cut to Carmella in the audience, mouthing the words. OK, she's belting a little now. Not shitty. Well, not too shitty. OK, wait, yeah, she's back to being shitty. Where's that horrible friend of hers? Why isn't she in the audience, cheering on her pal, secretly loving watching her go down in flames? Randy hates it and Meadow hates him back, shooting him an "I can't believe you're sassing me right now" face. Paula's nice. Simon tells her she was even worse than she was last week. And because the human ego is a fascinating, never-ending land of magical wonder and lies inflated to pink round truth, Meadow says, "I'm going to listen to Paula because Simon was wrong about Jennifer Hudson." Because...um...yeah...you sound...just like...like many other female singers named Jennifer...someplace. Somewhere.
1. Buy a Mac, damn you. They're so much better. Except for the MacBook I bought last summer that I'm writing this recap on. It's been nothing but trouble. A lemon. Seriously. So watch out, consumer pals. Apple likes to use the first wave of customers on a new product as the last stage of testing.
2. The next time you fly you will be seated between two loud fat men unless you change auto insurance.
3. Buy a Mitsubishi Outlander. Because that's what Mark E. Smith drives. I mean, I shouldn't be stunned that they're using one of the greatest bands ever, the Fall, in their ad. But I still kind of am. And you know that Smith just spent all that money at the pub.
Jordin Sparks dedicates her song to her little brother. So that's the butch lesbian I saw last week. He's a guy. And dang, she cries over him like a mental case. My brothers and I never act like that with each other. I mean, I get along with all of them just fine. They're good brothers. But we've mostly spent our lives punching each other as a sign of affection. Miss Sparks is so torn up with love for her sibling that she can't keep from bawling, so she barely makes it through the song, whatever it is. It sounds like something from Mulan, all about "when will everyone see who I really am?" That kind of bullshit.
Stephanie Edwards is so poised and cool, ice doesn't melt in her mouth. And when you sing like her you can be anything you want. Tonight she's Beyonce, singing "Dangerously in Love," a song that features three minutes of music and five minutes of lyrics. It makes whoever sings it jump through flaming hoops of fire, so she's showing off right now, like, "Look what I can do."
Leslie Hunt dedicates her song to her late grandfather. So many dedications to the dead this week. So much crying. So many people singing friggin' "Feeling Good." Can we ban that song after this week? Is Radio Disney playing it? What media outlet are these kids tuned into that they all know this old song now? Anyway, she scats and doodlee-doos all over the place. She's going home, even though she's got a kind of goofiness to her that I don't hate.
Haley Scarnato dedicates her song to her boyfriend, Mr. Handsome-Face. He looks like one of those guys who becomes a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness. Oh, shit, she's singing "Queen of The Night." I hate that song. Back in the early '90s I used to date this guy whose favorite movie was The Bodyguard, if you can believe that. We're still friends in spite of his crap taste in everything. Haley Scarnato takes this awful song and pours another bucket of awful all over it. The ladies never learn. They always go for the Whitney Houston song and it always decimates them.
And finally, Sabrina Sloan the Pussycat Doll dedicates her song to her grandmother and--wow!--calls the woman "Granny." Cut to this "Granny" character in a huge, amazing, champagne-hued Church Lady hat. I approve of those hats. They're better than anything any of these chicks has on tonight. Oh, good, another Whitney Houston song. "All the Man I Need" or something like that. In her favor, though, is that she's got a pretty strong voice, so she doesn't turn it into puke on toast. But still, she's no Lakisha, Stephanie, or No-Neck.
Time to send four of them packing. I predict Alaina, Sanjaya, Nick, and Haley or Leslie.
Seacrest is wearing a very nice charcoal-gray suit and black tie. What will he say tonight to eliminate my outfit-based goodwill?
Group-Sing Moment. The contestants set fire to "Joy to the World" like a gang of drunken high-school students out hate-criming a homeless person. I bet they voted on this one. Everyone loves to sing about Jeremiah being a bullfrog.
1. When Jordin Sparks sing-yells, "TO THE FISHES! YEAH YEAH!"
2. They give A.J. the line "You know I love the ladies..." But I know no such thing.
3. On the second round of "joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea," Gina gurgles out something that sounds like "OH SO FISHY!"
First cut: Nick Pedro. So that whole "Vote for Pedro" thing backfired. Randy encourages him to keep "that whole Sinatra thing going on." Because it worked so well for him here. They make him sing "Fever" again. He muddles through gamely. Tears-Cam cuts to Sundancehead, who weeps openly for his fallen brother in this war on fame.
Second cut: Alaina. Oh, boy, right again. Tears-Cam cuts to Jordin Sparks. Alaina can't even choke out the words to her humiliation song. Then she gives up and cries and hugs all the other girls. The background singers, however, keep going. More tears from Sundancehead. And it's not just tears; he really seems terrified that somehow they'll stop everything and say, "Oh, wait. You. Short round man. We meant to say your name." Crocodile Tears-Cam cuts to Stephanie Edwards, who blots but shows no actual wetness, kind of like on last year's Project Runway when Angela's mom did her fake-crying thing over Jeffrey's dress. Oh, and did you hear that Jeffrey left his baby-mama for Marilinda, his model? What a dick.
Seacrest fills time with some text-message contest thing you can play where you answer the easiest Idol trivia of all time. It costs 99 cents. Got a buck to throw out in the street? Then get to it, suckers! Last week's winner is in the audience now, a toothless guy who grins broadly, displaying a row of black-gummed misery that some dentist could finance a Benz with.
Kellie Pickler's long-lost mother is here tonight! They tell us it's the real Kellie Pickler, but if it is then she's this close to putting on the Mom Jeans, what with the conservative-but-still-broadcasting-the-cleavage blue dress and Tammy Wynette hair and all. She looks 47. Pickler sings a song she cowrote about that long-lost mom. It's very sad, but you know what? That lack of parental love is what made you famous, Pickler. The next step is finding the deadbeat mama for a tearful reunion on The View. Maybe when the second CD comes out. That would be good timing.
Third Cut: It's down to Sanjaya and AJ. Of course it'll be Sanjaya. But, surprise, it's A.J. Never underestimate the people who vote just to "represent." Sanjaya is shocked and embarrassed by this. A.J., though, is a class act and doesn't resent him for it. The judges are pissed. Even Paula says, "This is a singing competition." And unlike Alaina, he knows this is his last shot to make an impression. He's like "Fuck crying, I'ma sing this bitch again. Ohmigod Dreamgirls!" Tears-Cam cuts to Melinda D and, yes, Sundancehead. Wow, Sundancehead, every time? Is this just a bid for more on-camera moments?
Fourth Cut: Leslie goes. And dang it to heck, my TiVo cuts off. I get a call from a friend who says that Leslie added a funny bit to her Humiliation Number and sang, "Why did I scat? America hates jazz!" Well played, Goofy, if you did in fact do that. Stupid TiVo.